Happy August, y'all. Hope the power outages spared you and yours. Let's dive right into the pool of local jazz happenings.
The Jamey Aebersold 2004 Jazz Camp All-Stars
We in the Louisville area are fortunate to have one of the world's leading jazz educators living and working here, namely Jamey Aebersold, whose yearly Jazz Camps here always feature a pair of concerts by the faculty. A detailed review of these concerts may be found in the current issue of the Louisville Jazz Society Newsletter, available in print to all Society members and online for everyone at www.louisvillejazz.org. Thus, I will take a different approach here and merely emphasize what I thought were the highlights. The first concert, on Tuesday, June 29, began with an ensemble consisting of guitarist Dave Stryker, organist Bobby Floyd, tenor saxophonists Don Braden and Gene Walker, drummer Steve Barnes and vocalist Jennifer Barnes. Walker and Braden traded lines during the coda of the pop standard "When I Fall In Love" to great effect, drawing an early ovation from the packed house. During a funky version "What Is This Thing Called Love," Stryker's guitar solo set the stage for a burning solo by Braden, which began with a quote of Miles Davis' "Jean Pierre." The next group consisted of saxophonist Eric Alexander, joined his old compatriot, trumpeter Jim Rotondi; pianist David Hazeltine; bassist extraordinaire Rufus Reid and drummer John Riley. During a fast version of "The End of a Love Affair," Alexander took the first solo, emphasizing a straightahead style. When his playing turned from "solo with accompaniment" to a cappella, the audience and band were clearly captivated, as exemplified by Reid's head-bobbing and his ear-to-ear grin. The final group of artists was: Andy LaVerne on piano, bassist Lynn Seaton, saxophonists Jim Snidero (alto) and Gary Campbell (tenor) and Lynne Arriale's drummer, Steve Davis. One of LaVerne's original tunes, "Peace of Mind," was enhanced by a gorgeous bass introduction by Seaton.
The second concert, on Wednesday, July 7, featured many of the same artists, but with some interesting twists. The first ensemble, which consisted of Harry Pickens, piano; Gene Walker, tenor; Rick Simerley, trombone; Chris Fitzgerald, bass; Steve Barnes, drums; and Jennifer Barnes, vocal, concluded its set with an extended workout on the classic Harry "Sweets" Edison tune "Centerpiece." Ms. Barnes sang the lyrics before taking a long scat solo. Simerley's trombone solo emphasized long notes and a gentle approach. Walker's tenor solo was like a time trip to the glory days of jump blues and early R&B, which led into an unaccompanied Pickens solo, which was bluesy, highly rhythmic and even hinted at stride on occasion, before the group took the song out. Next up were Andy LaVerne, Lynn Seaton, Steve Davis, Gary Campbell, Jim Rotondi and Dave Stryker. During "Epiphany," a LaVerne original, Campbell's solo was a model of restraint, with slow-building intensity. Rotondi's solo brought to mind Jelly Roll Morton's phrase "the Spanish tinge," after which Stryker took the song into different territory, with an effective use of space at the outset, leading into a freer and more adventurous solo. LaVerne took the next solo, playing hard against a very funky backbeat, which led to a Davis solo before the ensemble returned to close the song with a return to its Latin flavor. The last group consisted of David Hazeltine, Rufus Reid Jim Snidero and "newcomers" Scott Wendholt on trumpet and Louisville's own Jason Tiemann playing drums. A highlight was the opening number, an unusual Hazeltine arrangement of "Moon River" featuring an odd, deconstructed rhythmic pattern during the melody, which Tiemann captured perfectly. Throughout both concerts, the emphasis was on the straightahead, mainstream school of modern jazz. Saxophonist Don Braden and guitarist Dave Stryker were, in retrospect, notable for bringing a more adventurous approach to the music.
Before leaving the Aebersold Camp performances, I would like to bring to your attention a brand new release by Dave Stryker, Shades Beyond, on the SteepleChase label. Eschewing the straightahead for an homage to the early electric work of Miles Davis, Stryker and his colleagues have managed to capture the bubbling energy of In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew. David Berkman, heard leading his quartet several months ago here at the Jazz Factory, contributed two songs and concentrated on organ and electric piano. Longtime Stryker associate Steve Slagle also brought two compositions to this session and adds both solo intensity and serpentine accents through his use of soprano and alto saxes and alto clarinet. Bassist Terry Burns, another pal of Stryker's, lends supple support through his inventive electric bass playing. Lenny White brings his vast experience in such seminal groups as Miles' Bitches Brew Band and Chick Corea's Return to Forever to this recording to great effect. Throughout, this talented crew accomplishes the difficult task of paying homage to Miles, Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi group and Weather Report, without simply sounding like dated imitations. If you are looking for solid electric jazz by a current artist (as opposed to reissues or vault releases from the '60s and '70s), this CD belongs in your collection.
Bobby Broom Trio at the Jazz Factory
Bobby Broom brought his trio from Chicago to Louisville for performance at the Jazz Factory on Friday and Saturday, July 16 and 17. Bassist Dennis Carroll was with Broom last year and drummer Kobie Watkins had performed here with the Ryan Cohan Quartet. As mentioned last month, Broom's resume includes lengthy stints with Sonny Rollins and Dr. John, but he is focused on his own career now. He came up during the 1960s and '70s and has a fondness for much of the popular music of that era, as conveyed on the 2001 Premonition CD Stand. To simply read the list of songs Broom played during his Saturday performance, one might think of some of the pop-oriented recordings of Wes Montgomery. One would be wrong, however, because in the hands of Broom and his trio, Beatles songs such as "I Will" and "Can't Buy Me Love," as well as other chestnuts such as "The House of the Rising Sun" and "El Condor Pasa" became vehicles for lengthy and intense workouts which went far past merely simple variations on a theme. Carroll's firm foundation and Watkins' energetic drumming left Broom free to pursue his muse. Throughout, the musicians looked as if they were enjoying playing, not merely doing a job. In an interview a few days before the show, Broom told me that the trio is going into the studio to work on a followup to Stand. He also works with the Deep Blue Trio, an updated take on the organ trio concept, featuring organist Chris Foreman and drummer Greg Rockingham. This group will have a recording out this fall on Chicago's famed Delmark label.
ON THE HORIZON
The Jazz Factory and the Kentucky Center are joining forces to bring a superb series to town. The opening concerts, on September 10 and 11, feature the Buster Williams Quartet. Williams is truly a bassist's bassist, having played bass in Ron Carter's quartet in the 1970s, in which Carter played piccolo bass while Williams played double bass. His recordings include many with the cooperative group Sphere, Herbie Hancock and many more. This is a "don't miss!" The remaining concerts include RenèMarie (November 5 and 6) and in 2005, Monty Alexander and Freddie Cole (February 18 and 19) and Frank Morgan and Cyrus Chestnut (April 8 and 9). For details, go to www.kentuckycenter.org or www.jazzfactory.us.
Of more immediate import is the festival scheduled to take place on Sunday August 22, as the Kentucky Center Presents its summer jazz festival at the Belvedere, featuring a sterling lineup of local and national talent for a nominal $5.00 admission. The schedule at press time is: 5-5:45 Fattlabb (formerly Splatch), 6-7:00 Sonya Hensley Quartet, 7:30-8:30 Babatunde Lea Quartet, and 8:30-10:30 Lou Donaldson Quartet featuring Dr. Lonnie Smith.
Also coming up in August at the Jazz Factory is the Louisville premiere of the Frank and Joe Show on Tuesday the 10th (and you can't beat the price, it's free). Frank Vignola and Joe Ascione released their first recording entitled 33 and 1/3 earlier this year on Hyena Records. It is an engaging blend of influences, including the string-based swing of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli and the CD includes guest vocals by Manhattan Transfer's Janis Siegel, Jane Monheit and Dr. John, who also contributes piano to the recording. Other highlights include some of the best of our local artists, with Jerry Tolson on August 6 and 7, Ron Jones on the 17th and Harry Pickens on the weekend of the 20th. Noteworthy visiting artists, besides the Frank and Joe Show, include the return of violinist Zach Brock and his group the Coffee Achievers on the 13th and 14th, another Louisville premiere with Jane Bunnett and Spirits of Havana on the 25th and the return of the Delfeayo Marsalis Quintet on the following night. The only downside is that there will be token support, if even that, by the local public radio station. Less than a year ago, although it sometimes seems like a lifetime, now, these artists would have been showcased by the jazz announcers on WFPK, when jazz still had a presence during the week at hours accessible to normal people. Especially now that there is a buzz about downtown with the Fourth Street Live Project, the Jazz Factory, the Jazz Bar at the Seelbach and other friends of the music we love should be able to count on a local voice for diversity to promote their offerings. Sic transit gloria.
For those of you with eclectic taste, the Iroquois Amphitheatre will host "Hulabalou" on Saturday August 21. This one-day festival will feature many names familiar to followers of the jamband scene, such as Yonder Mountain String Band. Of particular interest to the jazz community will be the return of Garaj Mahal. This talented quartet consists of Fareed Haque, Professor of Jazz and Classical Guitar at Northwestern University (on guitar, of course), Kai Eckhardt (with a degree in Jazz Performance from Berklee) on bass (and who played with John McLaughlin for several years); Eric Levy on keyboards and Alan Hertz on drums. I previously reviewed their only studio album to date, Mondo Garaj, in my April, 2004 column. The same adventurous playing is found on Live, Volume I, recorded at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco in 2002 and featuring the artistry of tabla master Zakir Hussain on most of the CD. The music ranges stylistically from Mahavishnu Orchestra-like passages of raging intensity to quieter explorations with heavy Indian influences. In a recent interview with Levy, he acknowledged that while the band has been embraced by the jamband community, there is "a jazz influence at the heart of all four of us," adding that the classic jazz formula of "head-solos-head-out is pretty integral; there is a human element in soloing, you can feel what they're going for - that's where the magic lies." Another jazz-oriented group to play Hulabalou is Indianapolis' EN2. A recent review by Nathan Romero, posted at www.jambase.com, described EN2's sound as being ." . . like a cross between house/trance and hip-hop/funk, with a strong sense of jazz improvisation holding it all together." To coin a cliche, it may not be your father's jazz, but the inclusion of such forward-looking jazz-related groups in this festival speaks well of the promoters. Let's hope the weather holds; I'll see ya there! For more information on the festival, surf over to www.melomanic.com.
Diana Krall at the Palace
Singer and pianist Diana Krall's tour will bring her to the Palace on Sunday, August 15, for a night of music featuring songs from her acclaimed recent Verve release, The Girl in the Other Room. She stretches her boundaries on this album by including her own compositions, several of which were co-written with her husband Elvis Costello. At press time her touring group was not known, but the CD includes some of the top players in the jazz world, such as bassists Christian McBride and John Clayton, and drummers Peter Erskine, Jeff Hamilton, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Krall, in a sense, has become a victim of her own popularity, a fate undeserved in light of her clear talent in playing, singing and selection of material in addition to her own compositions. I have read about some backlash in the jazz world that I can't help but wonder if it was fueled by her adaptations of composers such as Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits, rather than sticking to the canon of American Standards composers such as those featured on her earlier releases, including Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, et al. In any event, her assured voice and expressive touch on the piano should help make the Palace feel more like an intimate cabaret.
To borrow one of Hunter S. Thompson's catchphrases, okay for now. Let me know what you think, at email@example.com.